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Updated: September 14th, 2011 6:06pm
Twins Daily: Another loss to KC nearly ensures last-place finish

Twins Daily: Another loss to KC nearly ensures last-place finish

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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With a 7-3 win on Wednesday, the Kansas City Royals completed a two-game sweep over the Minnesota Twins, who now appear destined to finish the season at the bottom of the American League Central.

The skinny

In what has become a familiar -- if not daily -- script, the Twins lacked the ability to come through with big hits offensively yet again on Wednesday, scoring only three runs against Luke Hochevar and company.

Starter Liam Hendriks fell behind 2-0 in the second inning when Eric Hosmer, Jeff Francoeur and Mike Moustakas strung together three straight singles to start the frame, followed by a Johnny Giavotella sac fly.

The Royals then took advantage of some shaky Twins defense in the fourth with three more runs.

Hendriks went five innings, giving up five earned runs on eight hits and zero walks. He struck out two and threw 83 pitches in his second career major league start.

In the sixth inning, Salvador Perez dropped an RBI single into shallow left off Kyle Waldrop, and Alex Gordon delivered an RBI single off Phil Dumatrait to stretch the lead to 7-2.

The Twins scored on an RBI single by Danny Valencia in the fourth, and an RBI groundout by Jason Kubel in the sixth, scoring Michael Cuddyer, who led off the frame with a triple to right-center.

Cuddyer drove in another in the top of the seventh by drawing a bases-loaded walk, but Kubel struck out against lefty Tim Collins to strand three.

The Twins put 16 runners on base, but scored only the three runs.

With the loss, the Twins fell four games behind the Royals for fourth place in the American League Central with only 14 games remaining. 

Turning point

After falling behind 2-0, the Twins scored a rare run in the top of the fourth to keep the game tight.

Then the wheels came off.

Hosmer singled to center to start the fame, and Jeff Francoeur singled to put runners on the corners with nobody out for Moustakas, who delivered an RBI single to make it 3-1.

With runners still occupying the corners and nobody out, Giavotella hit a potential groundball double play ball to first baseman Chris Parmelee, but Trevor Plouffe's errant throw from second kept the rally going strong. Moustakas was retired at second base, but Francoeur scored from third, putting the Royals up 4-1.

Perez then delivered an RBI double to bump the lead to 5-1.

Numbers game

0: The number of Twins hitters -- regardless of the number of at-bats -- who have a .300 batting average or better this season. Not counting pitchers, 22 hitters have at least one plate appearance for the Twins this season.

1: Innings pitched by left-hander Brian Duensing out of the bullpen. Sidelined for nearly two weeks with a strained oblique, Duensing pitched a scoreless frame, allowing one hit and striking out one.

2: Hits for Joe Benson, including a hard-hit double down the right-field line.

2: Errors by Trevor Plouffe at shortstop.

Health report

• 1B Justin Morneau (mild concussion symptoms) returned to Minnesota Tuesday to tend to a personal matter, but it doesn't appear that his return to the field is imminent either. Morneau is still trying to string together several symptom-free days in a row.

• OF Denard Span (migraine, concussion symptoms) told 1500 ESPN Tuesday that he still hopes to return to action before the end of the season, but the clock is ticking. Span did travel with the team to Kansas City and he continues to work out.

• RHP Scott Baker and LHP Francisco Liriano (shoulder) were scheduled to throw bullpen sessions at Target Field on Wednesday, and both hope to return out of the bullpen before the end of the season. But, again, the clock is ticking.

On deck

The Twins have an off day Thursday before starting a three-game series with the Cleveland Indians at Target Field on Friday night.

Coming up

• Friday: vs. Cleveland, 7:10 p.m. RHP Kevin Slowey (0-5, 6.07) vs. RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (4-11, 4.61)
• Saturday: vs. Cleveland, 12:10 p.m. RHP Anthony Swarzak (0-1, 3.86) vs. RHP Jeanmar Gomez (3-2, 3.95)
• Saturday: vs. Cleveland, 1:10 p.m. LHP Scott Diamond (1-4, 3.94) vs. RHP Justin Masterson (11-10, 3.20)

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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